Bringing Te Ao Māori To Life In A Digital Classroom

 |   Microsoft New Zealand News Centre

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Every day, teachers are challenged to help students navigate through the New Zealand curriculum, teaching key skills while keeping students engaged and on task. Te Whaea Ireland discovered the power of gaming to captivate her year 5-6 students at Karoro School. Thanks to Ngā Motu, a Māori world within Minecraft: Education Edition, her students are exploring te ao Māori, building their literacy and digital technology skills in a fun and memorable way. Now it’s even easier for teachers across the country to make the most of Minecraft: Education Edition with new lesson plans designed to meet national curriculum standards.

Teaching students in the modern day is a balancing act. Teachers need to teach to the curriculum, of course, but they also need to do so in a way that engages students who learn in different ways, and to make sure that they stay on top of new technologies. To make sure their classes are prepared for the future, teachers are constantly balancing the needs of all their students, while looking for new techniques and products to excite students about their subjects and the whole learning process.

Two of the most important subjects for New Zealand students to be immersed in are digital technology and te ao Māori (the Māori world). Digital technology is critical, because as the world goes increasingly digital, tech skills are effectively skills for modern life. Learning about te ao Māori is critical for a different reason: understanding the values and history of Aotearoa’s indigenous people allows students to engage deeply with what makes this country unique, and equips them to walk into a future where they can honour and practice Te Tiriti o Waitangi.

Ngā Motu, a Minecraft: Education Edition game immersed completely within te ao Māori, is the perfect tool to excite students about these subjects, all within the familiar and exciting world of Minecraft. It’s been assisting teachers in the classroom since 2019, and more new features are being added all the time to make it even easier to meet curriculum standards, from learning te reo Māori to teamwork and research capabilities.

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Digital skills for real life

Microsoft has teamed up with CORE Education and Whetu Paitai, Ngā Motu’s creator, to develop lesson plans that make use of Ngā Motu and align with Levels 3 and 4 of the Digital Technology curricula in both the New Zealand Curriculum and Te Marautanga o Aotearoa. These resources provide assistance and instruction for teachers, and confidence that their lessons using Nga Motu will fit in with the learning outcomes of the curricula.

Teachers of any skill level can make use of these lesson plans, which create a structure for classes to move through Ngā Motu. Students will pick up digital skills along the way, build up a te reo Māori vocabulary and develop an understanding of New Zealand’s history and culture.

The lessons encourage the students to explore and learn more about te ao Māori, to build new things in the world, and to integrate their learning within Ngā Motu with an understanding of the physical world. For example, students are encouraged to choose a place in real life that is important to them, sketch or photograph it, and then recreate it in Ngā Motu. Students learn the principles of coding by designing a pōwhiri (welcome ceremony) and sequencing it in the correct order, and CAD skills by building a printable version of a whare (house) to their own design.

Ngā Motu is a digital world, but its lessons extend beyond students’ screens and into their surroundings and day to day life. Students are encouraged to think about their own whakapapa (lineage), and how the environment in Ngā Motu relates to the whenua (land) around them.

Bringing Ngā Motu to life in the classroom

Te Whaea Ireland had been using digital technology in her classroom at Karoro School, Māwhera Greymouth, for some time, but Minecraft wasn’t something she knew a lot about. Enter Madeline Campbell, an accredited facilitator at CORE Education Tatai Aho Rau, an organisation which has been critical to the uptake of Minecraft: Education Edition in New Zealand schools.

“We’re always looking for ways to bring te ao Māori into the classroom,” Te Whaea says, “Ngā Motu was a great way to do that, and CORE Education’s assistance was crucial for our ability to use Minecraft: Education Edition.”

Madeline visited Te Whaea’s classroom and showed the whole class how to explore Ngā Motu and other Minecraft: Education Edition resources. The students were given a few sessions to roam around the world, exploring its capabilities and learning the ropes. Some were already Minecraft experts, while others were relative novices.

Exploration of the game-based Māori pā was reinforced by a research assignment, where students were asked to use Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, to find out more about the waka (canoes) that Māori and Pasifika peoples used to travel between islands. This helped build students’ online research skills, as well as reading comprehension.

Groups then selected specific types of waka and marae to recreate in Minecraft. Students built whole marae, waka hourua (double canoes) and waka taua (war canoes) in Minecraft, using their research and creative skills to recreate historically accurate pieces. At the end, the students presented their research findings and creations.

The process was not only educational, it was a huge smash with students.

“A few students in my class who were sometimes less engaged in class were real Minecraft fans at home,” Te Whaea says. “Using Minecraft meant that they were more involved in their learning than if this was a traditional research exercise.”

The best measure of Ngā Motu’s success was the fact that many students were keen to keep adding on to their creations even after the lessons finished.

The right tool for the right task

“Not every subject needs to be taught digitally,” says Te Whaea. “We always want to use the right tool for the right task, and Ngā Motu was definitely the right tool for this task.”

The world of Minecraft: Education Edition, which includes many games like Ngā Motu, creates even more possibilities for classrooms. Teachers can develop their own lesson plans off the back of the open worlds, like Te Whaea, and use the game in a way that best suits their own classrooms, or they can make use of the new lesson cards and be confident in the knowledge that those classes align with the Digital Technology curricula.

“It’s been great to see how Minecraft: Education Edition has really captured the imaginations of teachers and students alike, as it allows a broad set of learning outcomes while catering for all sorts of different learning styles.,” says Lydia Kronawetter, Education Industry Executive at Microsoft. “Microsoft is continually adding new tools and features to Minecraft Education Edition to help teachers make the most of the resource and meet curriculum standards in innovative ways.

Minecraft Education is provided to all state and state-integrated schools through the Ministry of Education Schools Agreement, so that teachers across the motu (nation) can access and make use of its benefits.

To find out more about Ngā Motu and download the lesson plans, click here.

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